STRIVE program guides students through CPA pipeline

Written on Mar 21, 2017

By Jennifer Rieman, CAE, manager, public relations

You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s one of Jasmine Mickey's, OSCPA diversity and inclusion manager, favorite sayings and it gets to the heart of The Ohio CPA Foundation’s new STRIVE initiative. STRIVE, or Success Through Retention Inclusion Visibility and Engagement, is focused on building a community to advance diverse students through the CPA pipeline.

“When these students look at the profession, they’re not seeing people that look like them or came where they came from,” Mickey said. “So it’s important to have mentors that can say, ‘Hey I was there, I know how hard it is.’”

STRIVE aims to introduce students to accounting through existing programs such as ACAP-Ohio and the Accounting Careers Leadership Academy (ACLA), as well as several new programs currently in development. The idea is to guide students through every step of the CPA journey, from learning about accounting in high school, to choosing the major in college and sitting for the exam.

The hope is that alumnus of these programs will go on to mentor younger students, creating a cycle that continues to nurture the pipeline of future CPAs.

“Students from underrepresented backgrounds have additional challenges,” Mickey said. “Even if they enroll in accounting, keeping them in accounting is challenging. We want to make sure that we’re engaging these students from the high school level all the way through sitting for the CPA exam.”

Candice Hayes-McInnis, CPA, tax associate, Clark Schaefer Hackett, is exactly the kind of mentor STRIVE hopes to develop. She participated in ACAP-Ohio as a high school senior and credits the program with her decision to pursue her CPA.

“Every time I told someone I wanted to do accounting before ACAP-Ohio, they would say, ‘Why? You’re just going to sit at a desk,’ Hayes-McInnis said. “ACAP-Ohio showed me the vast opportunities that accounting offered. I really

attribute it to my choice of the accounting profession.”

Attending ACLA as an accounting graduate student further solidified her choice. The two-day leadership conference for accounting majors of color gives students exposure to diverse professionals from public accounting and industry, and prepares them for professional success after graduation.

“It was kind of intimidating to try and go into a career where not a lot of people look like you,” Hayes-McInnis said. “So when you have programs like ACAP-Ohio and ACLA, you get to see other people doing things that you want to do, so it makes it more attainable.”

Research from the AICPA shows that students, especially students of color, are increasingly selecting their major in high school, furthering the need for programs that reach younger students. A large component of STRIVE includes expanding programming aimed at younger students.

Selling accounting can be challenging when other fields, particularly STEM, have been ahead of the game in developing compelling messages that appeal to high school students. Mentors that can demonstrate the opportunities accounting offers are particularly important during this crucial decision-making time.

“It’s so vital for people that have gone through these programs [ACAP-Ohio and ACLA] and are now professionals in the field to come back and pay it forward for the next generation of students in the pipeline,” Mickey said. “Many students can benefit from that guidance. It’s important for someone to let them know that accounting is for them.”

For more information about the STRIVE initiative or any of the Foundation’s student-outreach programs, visit

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